Into The Wild

by Johnny

The Cape Peninsula, the Winelands, the Garden Route, Hogsback…we’ve really enjoyed every place in South Africa we’ve been thus far. All the people we’ve met have been super friendly and welcoming, and the scenery is an unimaginable combination of beauty I can only describe as coastal California meets Napa Valley meets Joshua Tree meets rural Hawaii. It’s been amazing, but it hasn’t exactly felt like Africa…at least not the Africa I had been picturing in my head. Well, that all changed upon our arrival to Coffee Bay, located on the very appropriately titled Wild Coast.

We noticed a different, more authentic feeling South Africa as soon as we crossed over from the Western Cape to the Eastern Cape, but the 80 kilometer drive down to Coffee Bay, known as “South Africa’s most dangerous road,” took it to a whole new level. It almost felt like I was playing a video game as I continually swerved to avoid cows, goats, donkeys, stray dogs, schoolchildren (the cutest kids of all times) and potholes the size of our Nissan Tiida. Passing Xhosa women carrying sticks on their heads dressed in traditional garb, including red clay on their faces to keep out the sun, Anna and I definitely had a “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore” moment.

We survived the livestock, pothole, cute kid obstacle course and arrived at our hostel, Coffee Shack, where we could finally exhale and admire our surroundings. It’s hard to imagine a more picturesque setting. Behind us were rolling green hills dotted with Xhosa villages while in front of us the sun was setting behind towering cliffs crashing into the Indian Ocean. Unfortunately, that would be the last time we would see the sun during our time in Coffee Bay as the next few days were full of wind and rain. It did, however, manage to stay dry enough for us to join a walking tour of one of the nearby Xhosa villages. Seeing how the Xhosa people live and learning about their customs and rituals from our guide Jerry, a Xhosa himself, was incredible. We saw how their traditional mud huts are made, hiked to the Sacred Pools, got our faces painted by Jerry (OK, that part was a little cheesy), ate a home cooked lunch in a Xhosa hut and even got to try some local Xhosa homebrew out of an old milk carton. Later that night, we enjoyed a traditional braai (barbeque) at our hostel, which included fresh oysters and mussels plucked right from the sea and drumming entertainment by some local Xhosa boys into the wee hours…a most excellent day.

View from our hut Our hut at Coffee Shack
Hiking in the hills The Wild Coast
The Indian Ocean View back towards Coffee Shack
Traditional Xhosa huts…the green “paint” is made from crushed rock and berry juice
Xhosa kids Little man hard at work
Rolling hills full of Xhosa huts
Xhosa man fixing his roof Xhosa woman
Red clay face paint Anna getting tribal
Anna made some friends Jerry and Johnny
The Sacred Pools, where Xhosa believe their ancestors go after they die
Wood fired meal Veggies, mealie pap and meat sauce
Having lunch in a Xhosa hut Xhosa brew
Fresh oysters and mussels at our hostel Traditional braai at our hostel
Drumming at our hostel Drumming and dancing into the night

Part of the reason we wanted to take this big trip was to experience new cultures and see firsthand how different people across the world live, and our stay in Coffee Bay definitely provided us with a heavy dose. For that, it was worth the white-knuckle drive, the crummy weather and being out of our comfort zone for a couple days. We also found it interesting that at a placed called the Wild Coast, which is considered one of the more primitive areas in South Africa, there seemed to be more integration between whites and blacks than anywhere else we’ve been in the country so far. Some of the accommodations at our other stops in South Africa have felt almost liked gated fortresses (our room in Franschhoek had a panic button!), and even though apartheid ended almost 20 years ago, things still seem very, very separate. I don’t know…maybe all the gates and alarms are necessary and warranted in those areas, but being able to walk and mingle worry free with the local Xhosa people, who would always greet us with a wave and a smile, was quite refreshing.

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4 Responses to “Into The Wild”

  1. so beautiful,so interesting..thank you for showing us this corner of the world..xxoo

  2. How was that Xhosa brew? Beer out of carton looks pretty legit.

  3. You have a LOT to be grateful for this Thanksgiving! We will be thinking of you with out turkey. Love ‘ya, Moonie

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